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Sosdae Literature

Have you ever heard of Sosdae Literature?  It is the literary magazine written exclusively by the disabled in Korea.  The representative of Sosdae Literature is Bang Gui-hee, who graduated with a degree in Buddhism from Dongguk University (DU) in 1981.  Ms. Bang is not only a representative of the Sosdae Literature but is also a radio writer and professor. 
When she was one year old, she suffered from  infantile paralysis and now cannot use her feet and left hand.  She can only use her right hand when eating and writing.  Although she is physically disabled, she is as much busy as ordinary people with her work.
When the post asked her how she became a Buddhism major, she said that in her high school days she wanted to become an oriental doctor.  However, universities rejected her because of her handicap.  "Despite my handicap, DU accepted me.  Perhaps because I was going to be a Buddhism major.  It was my 'karma'."  In fact, she majored in Buddhism at the undergraduate and graduate school. 

The Post had an interview with Bang Gui-hee.
<A Representative of Sosdae Literature>

The Post: How did you become the representative of Sosdae Literature?
Ms. Bang: Before I became its editor, I was a radio writer and a DJ (Disk jockey).  There are many disabled people who listen to my radio program.  They have severe disabilities and can't work so there is no way to earn money.  Some other disabled people can draw and some are athletes, but they are people who have relatively minor disabilities.  People who are severly disabled want to write so as to feel they are alive.  However, other literary magazines are conservative and closed to handicapped people.  There is no room for the disabled to publish their works.  That was the main reason why I decided to make a literary magazine for the disabled.  However, our magazine is not limited to the disabled.  Ordinary people can contribute their work but it accounts for only 2 to 3 percent of contributions.  Sosdae Literature has been published quarterly for 16 years.  I am to say that we have never failed to publish every issue.  We are always working hard and writers are always writing their best works.
Sosdae Literature strongly pursues the recognition of the disabled's human rights.  At the same time, Ms. Bang wanted people to feel close to the disabled. 
The Post: How did you finance Sosdae Literature?
Ms. Bang: When I first made up my mind to make the magazine for the disabled, I was running a daily program on both the Buddhist Broadcasting System (BBS) and Korean Broadcasting Program (KBS).  At some point, I decided to use my earnings from BBS for Sosdae Literature.  I spent quite a lot of money on Sosdae Literature (Laugh).  Fortunately, I receive donations these days.  Also, Kyunghee University's professors helped me a lot with establishing Sosdae Literature. 

<Radio Writer>
The Post: What made you decide to become a radio writer?
Ms. Bang: When I was young, my mother said I should always speak clearly since most people regard the disabled as stupid.  So I always spoke with a clear voice so that people would not think I was stupid.  This prepared me to work in broadcasting.  I was not a radio writer at first.  I was a guest speaker and a reporter and then I had a three-minute speech column.  When I had a three-minute speech, there was a manuscript in front of me.  That was when I got interested in being a radio writer.  An MC (Master of Ceremony) seemed just like a 'parrot' to me at that time.  Radio writers were the ones who really seemed to control the program.  I joined the Korean Radio & TV Writers Association in 1987. 

Ms. Bang mentioned that being a radio writer is the best job among all the occupations she can think of.  She said that it is gratifying when people listen to what she is saying and send her post cards or e-mails.  "I also host a daily program where I can meet many people and listen to their opinions.  That is what I really like." Ms. Bang said with a smile.

<As a Professor>
Ms. Bang is also a professor in Kyunghee University.  She teaches 'Practicing Broadcasting Writing Skills', in the Korean Language and Literature Dept.  "When I got a call from Kyunghee University, I felt both happy and disappointed.  I was happy because Kyunghee University was my dream school when I was a high school girl.  At the same time, I was disappointed because the call was not from DU, my alma mater. 
The Post: Is there any book you would like to recommend to college students?
Ms. Bang: College students do not read many books these days.  Also, students are no longer romantic (Laugh).  Recommending only one book is very difficult because so many books are important and worthwhile.  Even comic books are worth reading because there is no writer who intends to harm readers.  Writers want to share their thoughts and opinions through their writings.  Among many books, I was especially impressed by "Oprah Winfrey Speaks: Insights from the world's most influential voice."  I like to read essays about life experiences because the author could become my role model and I could get inspiration from him or her.  There is one famous story about Oprah Winfrey that inspired me.  When she first went for an audition to be the MC of a talk show, she told the people that she could not change her skin color and lose weight, but she promised to do her best as an MC.  That really impressed them.  I really want to emphasize that students should read people's essays or life stories to be inspired.

The Post: Don't you ever get tired from working three jobs?
Ms. Bang: I am not tired because I have three jobs, but because I have to write at night.  Mostly, I cast guests in the afternoon and I write at night.  There are so many disabled people without jobs that I try not to think I am tired.  The disabled's unemployment rate is 7 times higher than that of the nation's rate.  I am always thankful that I have a work and I am really happy because there is always something to do. 
The Post: Tell us about programs you are doing for the disabled. 
Ms. Bang: My radio programs are all related to the disabled.  I am their voice in the program and try to further their interests with the government.  It is very important to listen to everyone's voice.  Even when a person is running an organization for the disabled, it is not so easy for that person to know all of the disabled's opinions.  If I worked only as a representative of Sosdae Literature, I would only hear writers' opinions.  However, broadcasting is different.  I get the chance to meet people from all different places and hear their voices and try to publicize their views.  These are the ways in which I can help the disabled. 
The Post: What is your dream?
Ms. Bang: I want people who write in Sosdae Literature to have a regular income so that they can write with a more comfortable mind.  To do so, I believe Sosdae Literature should have a financial foundation.  At least I want to support the disabled who are writing.  I believe it could be much better if there would be a scholarship for our literary magazine. 

The 'Non-discrimination of the Disabled' law will take effect from next year.  When Ms. Bang started Sosdae Literature, her mottos were to support disabled writers and to eliminate prejudices against the disabled.  Since the law will be enforced from next year, she thinks she should be working much harder to raise the disabled human rights issue. 

  "I do not believe people hate the disabled, but it is just that they are not accustomed to the disabled.  For a long time I did not go out in public.  I just wrote and lived like a recluse.  However, from now on, I am going to visit schools for lectures.  I think it is one of the ways in which I can change people's thoughts against the disabled. 

You Sun-hee  sunheeyou@dongguk.edu

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